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Colossal hoax: It’s not about EEZs, stupid*

You are currently viewing Colossal hoax: It’s not about EEZs, stupid*

First of four parts

THE allegation that China has absolutely no right by international law to islands and shoals in the South China Sea, which has reached a level of Sinophobic hysteria against the superpower, is based on colossal misinformation. This lie has been masterfully disseminated by the US to demonize China as part of its “Pivot to Asia” policy started in 2009.

This colossal lie is that China has been intruding into our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a maritime zone, and therefore, it’s trampling over our sovereignty.

But the EEZ was invented through an international treaty that took effect only in 1994. It emanates 200 nautical miles from the coastal state’s territorial sea, which is 12 nautical miles from the land territory. This means that, unlike the territorial sea over which a state has absolute sovereignty, an EEZ confers only limited rights to the coastal state, mainly over its natural resources, which is why its name does not include any term that may be from the coastal state’s territorial sea, which is 12 nautical miles from the land territory. This means that, unlike the territorial sea over which a state has absolute sovereignty, an EEZ confers only limited rights to the coastal state, mainly over its natural resources, which is why its name does not include any term that may be misconstrued as sovereign authority.

EEZs, therefore, cannot negate the sovereign claims of China or any other country, just as our presumed EEZ cannot claim sovereignty or even sovereign rights over parts of Taiwan, Indonesia and Sabah just because it reaches these areas.

The dispute in the Spratlys (where Ayungin Shoal, Pag-asa and other areas that have been flashpoints are) and in Scarborough Shoal is about conflicting claims of sovereignty, not EEZs. China, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines each have powerful arguments for their claims of sovereignty over the disputed areas, which China calls Nansha Qundao, the Vietnamese Quần đảo Trường Sa, and the Philippines, the Kalayaan Island Group. These territorial claims had been made at the latest in the 18th century in the case of China and Vietnam, and in our case, in 1978, long before the EEZs that countries agreed to set up in 1994.

Official maps

So where’s the EEZs? The real sovereignty dispute over Spratlys: Vietnam’s Quần đảo Trường Sa, China’s Nansha Qundao, and the Philippines’ Kalayaan Island Group.

Image No. 1 is the official maps of the three claimants, where their territorial claims are represented, with the features labeled in their own languages. Image No. 2 is a post on Facebook that depicts the colossal lie that China’s EEZ can’t possibly reach our EEZ.

A patent misrepresentation of our dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Image No. 2 is a post on Facebook that depicts the colossal lie that China’s EEZ can’t possibly reach our EEZ. The huge omission is that China’s and Vietnam’s territorial claims over islands encompassed by our EEZ are not shown. The Spratly Island group is not depicted as an area that China and Vietnam claim as their sovereign territory. The map claims that the EEZ is “Philippine territory,” which it is not.

Contrary to the lie that the US propaganda machine and prominent figures have been disseminating, China’s claim of sovereignty is not based on the famous nine-dash line (a dashed line drawn over most of the South China Sea) shown in China’s maps since 1947.

Academic Ranhilio Aquino, a columnist in this newspaper, recently articulated the view often expressed by the most ignorant anti-China mob: “China’s ridiculous nine-dash line or 10-dash line — encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea/West Philippine Sea, in effect rendering nugatory the guarantees of international law.” But China has never asserted that its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea are based on that nine-dash line.


It was retired justice Antonio Carpio who first launched a massive disinformation campaign against the nine-dash line, claiming that it “is the main driver of the South China Sea dispute.” Carpio wrote: “China submitted in 2009 to the UN a map of its nine-dashed line, claiming ‘indisputable sovereignty’ over all the islands and the ‘adjacent’ waters enclosed by the line.”

Carpio is lying. Nowhere in China’s note verbale (No. CML/18/2009) did that country claim its “indisputable sovereignty” was based on that nine-dash line, although that line was depicted in the map submitted along with that diplomatic note — but without an explanation of what it is. All maps of China have that nine-dash line since 1947, made by a lower-ranking Kuomintang Party official. (I will provide a more detailed explanation of the nine-dash line on Wednesday.)

However, Carpio, in 2023, or six years later, corrected his views. In a lecture at the UP Law Center, he said that our disputes with China “remain unresolved since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea governs only maritime disputes and not territorial disputes. There is no treaty providing for a compulsory dispute settlement mechanism for the territorial dispute in the SCS.” That approximates what I have been arguing since 2012, that the South China Sea dispute is over EEZ. Carpio, however, is terribly wrong in putting maritime disputes on the same level as territorial disputes.

China’s claim is not about EEZs but on its contention that the areas encompassed by Philippine EEZs have been its sovereign territory that it calls Nansha Qundao, its international nomenclature being the Spratly Islands. China’s formal administration of these islands started in the 18th century, evidenced by the fact that Nansha Qundao and three other archipelagos have been on its official maps. In the modern period, it declared these islands as part of its territory first in the Declaration of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on China’s Territorial Sea in 1958, the first to declare so, and 20 years before us through Marcos annexation decree in 1978.


Vietnam’s most important justification is that its colonizer France forcibly grabbed the Spratlys before World War II when such violent means wasn’t yet outlawed by the UN, making it a legitimate way of acquiring territory. France after the war turned it over to the Republic of Vietnam.

That the US propaganda machine and this government have been demonizing China over the South China Sea issue is evident in the fact that Vietnam is never mentioned as a claimant. If China withdraws from the Spratlys, however, Vietnam will immediately occupy it, and its battle-seasoned troops will very easily beat ours.

What many anti-China commentators’ small minds cannot comprehend is that these territories claimed by China and Vietnam in the genre of what are called “outlying archipelagos,” whose sovereign countries are thousands of miles away, among them: New Caledonia off Australia, whose sovereign is France on the other side of the globe; the US’ Guam, Wake and Jarvis Island, even Hawaii in the Pacific, and the United Kingdom’s Falkland Islands. The US 200-km EEZ, measured from its baselines in Florida, reaches the Cuban coast and the Bahamas, but it does not claim it has sovereign rights in these areas.

No country in the world, not even the US, which disseminated through their powerful global media, has ruled that the claim of one country is superior to the others. China, Vietnam and the Philippines have just let the territorial dispute remain unresolved, as the United Nations bars its members from using force to enforce its claims. However, the Aquino 3rd and Marcos Jr. administrations, at the behest of the US, have used the widely misunderstood nine-dash line and the Philippines EEZ as powerful propaganda tools to portray China as an aggressor.


Yet our ignorant leadership, especially the military and the Coast Guard, as well as many commentators, jump up and down whenever Chinese government vessels enter our presumed EEZs, where Ayungin Shoal and Scarborough Shoal, for example, are located. The Chinese, however, claim Ayungin as part of their sovereign territory called Nansha Qundao and Scarborough Shoal, its Huangyan Island. Therefore, they have the right to defend it from unfriendly intrusions, such as those by Philippine vessels, even to the point of using water cannons and maneuvering their vessels against ours.

Furthermore, our ignorant leaders are unaware that under Unclos, countries have high-sea rights in the EEZs; they are not required to get permission from the coastal states for their vessels to sail through it.

The other day, for instance, the Philippine Navy condemned China’s purportedly largest coast guard ship for sailing near Pag-asa Island “deep into the country’s exclusive economic zone.”

Two days before, the Philippine Coast Guard’s pugnacious spokesman Jay Tarriela tweeted regarding a China Coast Guard vessel patrolling Scarborough Shoal: “Another stupidity from Beijing! Bajo de Masinloc is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and Filipinos navigating these waters are merely exercising our sovereign rights.” It is Tarriela, however, who has demonstrated massive ignorance of what an EEZ is.

Those who have gullibly believed this lie have become such true believers that they have become deliriously emotional about it, a symptom of fanaticism. For instance, a columnist in this paper, Antonio Contreras, claimed he had “nothing but contempt toward anyone” who doesn’t embrace his anti-China views. I cannot understand why a purported academic could spew such venom over an issue that has two sides.


I am not really shocked how so few — I count only three regular columnists in our broadsheets, all in The Manila Times (Ricardo Saludo, Anna Malindog-Uy and Mauro Samonte) — who have dared to explain the truth about our dispute with China. It is a classic case of what the great columnist Walter Lipmann was referring to when he wrote, “When everyone thinks the same, nobody is thinking.”

In my case, I have studied the South China Sea disputes since 1995, when China first occupied Mischief Reef and built a facility on stilts there. I was a correspondent of the Far Eastern Economic Review, which had an anti-China bias. I have written over 40 columns on it, have written a well-researched book with required citations entitled “Debacle: The Aquino Regime’s Scarborough Fiasco and the South China Sea Arbitration Deception,” and have read over a dozen scholarly books and scholarly articles on the issue.

Those who pretend to understand the dispute should read at least the documents on the Philippine arbitration case against China and, to get the other side, the 635-page “The South China Sea Arbitration Awards: A Critical Study” by the Chinese Society of International Law. Only after you have read these two works can you pretend you know what our dispute with China really is. Both of these can be accessed on the internet.

I have been the target of so many anti-China netizens and by the dull-witted PCG spokesman claiming I am not being patriotic and that, as Contreras put it, I am “taking the side of the enemy of the country.” However, I’m proud though to be in the same club as Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed his government’s deception over the unjust Vietnam War; Edward Snowden, who released classified documents on the US illegal surveillance programs; Australian Julian Paul Assange, whose WikiLeaks released US Army documents on its barbarism in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; and other “whistleblowers” around the world who have dared to expose their own governments’ lies.


The belief that China is “grabbing what is ours” ranks on the level of other hoaxes perpetrated by the US to demonize weaker nations to justify subsequent war against them.

Among these: the sinking of USS Maine in Havana in 1898, which was used by the McKinley government as justification to declare war against Spain; the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 that the Johnson administration used to expand its war against Vietnam; and, of course, the Bush administration’s allegations in 2003 that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” (nuclear, biological and chemical weapons), that the US had to invade Iraq which led to a million direct and indirect deaths and created the instability that continues in that region to this day.

Indeed, in terms of successfully fooling so many people, the anti-China hoax ranks only second to the WMD deception.

I hope, though, that it won’t justify a war, as the WMD did. The hate toward China created by this EEZ/nine-dash-line hoax has become a national hysteria, proving the American writer Mark Twain’s adage: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

There is a real risk that a fooled military might engage China in some military adventure, which would obviously be met with full force by the world’s biggest navy and army. Indeed, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. is so deluded when he said the other day: “We will give the Chinese a bloody nose.”

It is so tragic that our quarrel with China, the second-biggest economy in the world, which will inarguably hurt us in a big way, impoverishing at least a million Filipinos, is the result of a colossal lie concocted and spread by the US. Or is the Marcos regime planning to declare martial law when China retaliates against us?

*The expletive in the title of this piece is not meant to insult. It merely mimics the “It’s the economy, stupid” phrase coined by James Carville, President Bill Clinton’s political adviser in 1992, meaning that when it comes to elections, it is still the economy that is the principal focus of voters.

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

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My website: www.rigobertotiglao.com

This Post Has One Comment

  1. River Dweller

    It’s amusing to see the China Derangement Syndrome, which is led on by our ruling classes. I suspect some of it is subconscious seethe – after all, that a nation their generation knew as refugees, washed up magbobotes and shoe-shiners is now giving their god, the United States, a run for their money. Not to mention that the achievements of China hold up an unfavorable mirror towards our elites – what have our elites done to match the growth of China and other Asian countries?

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